You wash your hands, you sanitize surfaces, and you take regular showers using soap. All of these things keep you clean and hopefully free of harmful germs and bacteria, right? We all go to extremes to remain clean and hygienic and many products are tailored for this specific purpose, but are you covering all your bases? For instance, what about your hair? No one is applying hand sanitizer to their hair and some of us don’t even wash everyday–yikes. How does shampoo kill bacteria? Can we trust it to rid our heads of bacteria and other scalp-crawling pests?
How does shampoo kill bacteria? While most shampoo is not formulated to specifically kill bacteria, it does an effective job of ridding the scalp of possibly harmful microbes including bacteria. Other shampoos are medically formulated with ingredients such as tea tree oil or ketoconazole to kill bacteria and treat ailments like eczema, psoriasi, and even dandruff.
So should I trust my shampoo to kill germs and bacteria?
It’s important to know that shampoo is not designed with killing bacteria in mind. Traditional shampoos work more to control sebum, buildup, and dirt; however, they’re still pretty effective at controlling and ridding the scalp of harmful microbes including bacteria. The simple act of lathering and washing actually flushes most microbes out of the hair and down the drain. Furthermore, shampoos contain detergents that can actually break down the membranes of bacteria and viruses. The loss of these membranes render the microbes lifeless.
While traditional shampoos often do enough to control bacteria, other shampoos are formulated to kill certain bacteria and alleviate other unwanted skin conditions that can afflict the scalp. For some, traditional shampoos just don’t do enough to control skin issues like eczema or psoriasis. That’s when it’s time to bring in the big guns. These shampoos are often referred to as medicated shampoos or antibacterial shampoos, and while they’re great at treating issues, they’re not for everyone. Rather they are tailored for those with severe conditions.
Does shampoo also kill viruses?
When viruses are making their way around, we’re all a little more cautious about hand washing, wiping surfaces, and minding what we touch, and this caution is with good reason. Viruses can sometimes live on hard surfaces for multiple days. This might send you cleaning vigorously and then running to the shower when you consider viruses dangling from your strands, but most viruses struggle to survive long on porous surfaces like your tresses.
In addition, hair has some antimicrobial properties which tend to inhibit viruses and germs from adhering to it. Natural oils found in hair can actually act as a protectant; however, when viruses are rampant, reaching for shampoo also works if you don’t wholeheartedly trust your hair to defend them on its own.
The surfactants in shampoo are absolutely effective at either washing those nasty viruses down the drain or dismantling them on the surface, so have no fear that your shampoo is working. There’s no need to go overboard, but you may want to wash daily during a particularly vicious flu season, or if you’re around other who are sick–think health care workers or caretakers.
Is it better to wash my hair with antibacterial shampoo or regular shampoo
The thought of any living microbe on your hair or scalp can make your skin crawl, but unless you actually have an issue like itching or flaking, there’s no reason to use an antibacterial shampoo.
Antibacterial products are either bacteriostatic or bactericidal. Bacteriostatic products prevent the growth of bacteria while bactericidal products kill bacteria. So when do you reach for one of these types of products?
Well, most likely you will be referred to these products by a dermatologist or pharmacist. If you have excessive itching, scaling, dandruff, or other quarry that forces you to seek relief, then most likely you’ll end up with an antibacterial shampoo–either a prescription or OTC shampoo with powerful ingredients.
Some of these shampoos also kill unwanted critters like ringworm or lice. While these vermin are certainly gross, exposure can be easier than you think. If you own pets of work around animals, it’s not so hard to pick up unwanted parasites. In addition, if you’re often around children, lice can be common. Antibacterial shampoos can certainly help with these critters as well as bacteria–you’ll just need to reach for the right one, and a doctor or pharmacist is a great resource.
Can I also use shampoo to kill bacteria on other parts of my body?
There are thousands of products on the market that gloat about how well they clean, moisturize, or smell, but the truth is, many of them are very similar. In fact, when comparing traditional shampoo and body wash, the similarities are plentiful.
Because of these similarities, swapping one for the other is certainly doable, but it’s probably easier to use a shampoo as body wash rather than a body wash as shampoo. If you use a body wash as shampoo, you might end up with a little dryness and some tangles since shampoo has more ingredients for hair manageability.
When it comes to using an antibacterial shampoo to address skin issues not associated with your scalp, your best move is consult a doctor for safety and effectiveness. Yes, antibacterial shampoo can alleviate skin issues, but these conditions are limited to the scalp. It could be dangerous to assume antibacterial shampoo will help with skin afflictions on other parts of your body–especially if you’re not 100% sure about the diagnosis. It may work, but why take the risk?
What shampoos are antibacterial and which are best to use?
Most antibacterial shampoos will advertise antibacterial properties right on the label, but the ingredients are what makes the shampoo effective at ridding icky microbes. The following ingredients are most effective and common at treating scalp ailments.
A powerful ingredient often found in prescription shampoos, ketoconazole prevents excessive fungi that is already present on the scalp. In addition, it’s also effective at treating dandruff and even promotes healthy hair growth–certainly a winning ingredient to reach for.
2. Tee tree oil
Tee tree oil is not only a natural ingredient, but it also acts as an antiseptic getting rid of bacteria and preventing it’s regrowth. An additional win is that it’s less harsh on your hair when combined with other natural ingredients like argan or jojoba oil and won’t cause dryness like other antibacterial shampoos.
3. Pyrithione zinc
Well known for it’s antibacterial properties, pyrithione zinc is effective against a number of microbes. It treats many ailments from psoriasis to eczema and can also be used on all hair types–including color treated hair, so it’s gentle and effective.
4. Coal tar
Coal tar is well known for helping with unpleasant scalp irritations. Coupled with its anti-inflammatory effects, it fights against ailments like dandruff and psoriasis. It also has long lasting effects even after you stop using it, but just make sure the shampoo you choose is color safe–coal tar has been known to discolor light or color-treated hair.
5. Calendula oil
Calendula oil does well at not only disinfecting, but it also heals wounds on the scalp quickly while preventing new bacteria and fungi from returning. It’s soothing nature helps with a number of skin issues like eczema and it’s even an active ingredient in many diaper rash ointments so candula oil is even gentle enough for baby.
These ingredients are not the only effective battle fronts against skin conditions, but they’re a great place to start. Don’t be afraid to consult a doctor to get the best results.
While you may feel the need to scrub your head with harsh chemicals and a stiff-bristled brush when you think of all the vermin your scalp could be harboring–yuck–there’s really no need to do so. Most people can get by with traditional shampoo which is effective at keeping harmful microbes at bay. If you happen to have a more severe problem, you can then reach for an antibacterial shampoo after consulting with a professional to help you determine just what your scalp issue is. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and it’s common. That’s why there are hundreds of products to choose from that will help your scalp be once again squeaky clean and free of critters.